A student studying abroad at Temple’s Rome campus has accused a French soccer player of raping her at a dance club in Rome last week.
Garra Dembele, 20, a former soccer player for the first division soccer club AJ Auxerre in France, was arrested at a train station in Rome, according to a report by the Associated Press. Dembele is being held under the charge of suspicion of aggravated rape.
Ray Betzner, director of Communications at Temple, said that although the student was not a Temple student, but was only studying with the program, the university is taking the issue seriously.
“We are working with our staff in Rome to help the woman who was the victim in this case – and all the students studying there – deal with the impact of the recent incident,” Betzner said in a statement.
According to the police report, the alleged
victim was attacked while at a nightclub near Piazza Navona, a popular tourist spot in the city. Some students who have traveled to Rome with Temple’s study abroad program have said they never felt that they were in any danger while traveling overseas. Vanessa Barbetti, a senior international business major, said she spent all of last year in Rome studying with the program, and even stayed over the summer.
“I felt very safe there,” Barbetti said. “I felt more safe at Rome than I do in Philly, actually.”
Barbetti also said that while the university was actively involved with students on campus, they didn’t get involved in occurrences that happened off-campus.
“A girl got attacked in a club, but it was between two Temple students,” Barbetti said.
“[The university] didn’t intervene in that at all. I don’t know what responsibility they really have to students outside of school.”
Melissa Spinner, a senior political science major who studied in Rome during the Spring 2006 semester, said that she had a different experience with the study abroad program in Rome.
“They were involved in everything,” Spinner said. “I got sick when I was there, and I ended up calling the dean’s house. [The university] offered to set up doctor’s appointments, and they really helped me a lot.”
Betzner said the university has been in contact with the victim’s family to keep them up-to-date with the developments of the case.
Emily Catalano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.